Saturday, December 7, 2013

How to Get Better in Chess & Variations in Laws

Source: Shock Ha'Sach [The Game of Chess], p. 12, by Yosef Zamnitz (ph. Sp.), Vilna, 1880.
For those of us who think our game is in a rut, here is some advice from Zamnitz on how to attack:
17. The attack. After he had put his army in the correct tabia, the player should try to create a plan to capture and defeat his opponent. It is a good idea to think at the same time of two goals and targets, so that if the enemy realizes one and nullifies it, the other will remain; and if it too will fail, he will create another plan. But he should be careful not to expose himself in his desire to defeat his enemy, and will fall, beaten, before his also-scheming opponent.
In other words: 'make good move and win, but avoid making bad moves and losing'. Well, true so far as it goes, but...

In fact however we are being somewhat unfair to the book. It does have quite a lot of interesting and rather deep strategic advice -- for example, distinguishing between the general characteristics of 'piece play' and 'pawn play' and considering them both as legitimate  (p. 13) or carefully considering the relative advantages of bishops and knights and noting that which one is superior depends on the type of position (p. 27).

Most interesting is the book's list of rules which are 'dependent on pre-game agreement or location'. These includes "two-move" chess (where the game starts with two moves in a row by the same player), variations in castling and promotion (e.g., can a pawn be promoted to a piece that still is on the board, etc.), whether it is customary to announce a 'check to the queen', is en passant allowed, and whether reaching a position where the opponent has a bare king counts (on its own) as a victory or as an immediate draw (!) (p. 9-10).

Finally, The author seems to have a strong dislike of the 'very ungentlemany way' of winning the game by queening one's last pawn (p. 11) since it makes one pawn (the book, incidentally, speaks of one 'farmer', Ikar, from the German term Bauer) enough for victory, which the  author clearly does not consider the correct way to win a chess game, namely, by a vigorous attack, although the book does prefunctory discuss basic endgames (in the very last pages of the book, pp. 35-36).

1 comment:

  1. Very educational and informative. Also, not as much filler content as in other Posts I have read about this topic so very nice to see that. Keep it up!

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